2011 winner

"It’s amazing to think an eleven-year-old could have written this extraordinarily good poem. It evokes times, places and familiar mysteries by its masterly use of precise and original images that indicate a born poet."

ANGELA HUTH, 2011 judge

Saint Wyllow's Bridge

by Jennifer Burville-Riley

Photos: Rickford Compton

This is a

bridge between summer term and autumn,

Weather-bleached boards

across a Cornish creek

where tidal waters ebb and ease,

where river

weed dances

to the ocean’s pulse,

where armoured crabs

battle underwater

and treasure-fragments

await my discovery.


This is a

bridge between truth and myth:

I press my ear to the creaking timbers,

sensing the ancient steps

of a persecuted saint

who walked a half-mile

to reach this bridge,

cradling his ownde

capitated head.

I taste his salt-tears,

sharp to my tongue,

hear teardrops

flow to a grieving sea.


This is a

bridge between past and present:

I conjure visions

of colourful barges

docked at the quay

in bustling days of industry,

loaded with coal and limestone rocks

destined for the fiery kilns.

There are pack mules and horse drawn carts.

There are children gathered

to watch men at work.


This is a

bridge between child

life and teenhood,

a place to catch eels, net crabs, to dive or float,

build driftwood rafts, watch bats by moonlight,

hunt for ghosts, read books, skim stones.

I text my friends but find there’s no signal,

scrawl a note instead and stick it in a bottle,

drop it in the water,

the twinkling river light

winks back

as my summer-self stands

between two worlds.


© Jennifer Burville-Riley 2011

Copyright © 2019 Betjeman Poetry Prize   |  All Rights Reserved

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